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What is an oligodendroglioma?

Oligodendrogliomas account for 2-5% of all primary brain tumours. They are more common in adults, particularly those aged 40-60.

If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma, you may be worried about what this means. This is a natural way to feel. Our Support and Information team can help answer any questions you may have or provide a listening ear if you need one.

What is an oligodendroglioma?

Oligodendrogliomas are primary brain tumours that are a type of glioma. They're the third most-common glioma, accounting for 2-5% of all primary brain tumours and 5-18% of gliomas. 

The majority of oligodendrogliomas occur in the frontal lobe, and the second most common site affected is the temporal lobe.

They're more common in adults, particularly in people aged 40-60, and are slightly more common in men than in women.

Oligodendrogliomas are divided into two types:

      Grade 2 oligodendrogliomas

      These are low grade brain tumours that grow very slowly.

      Grade 3 oligodendrogliomas

      These are high grade tumours that grow faster and are more likely to spread. They're also known as anaplastic oligodendrogliomas and are more common in older people aged 60-80.

      What treatment do people diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma usually have first?

      If you’ve just been diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma and are about to have treatment, you may want to see what other people’s first treatment was. Use the First Treatment insight in BRIAN, which you can personalise to make it relevant to you.

      What treatment do people diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma usually have first?

      BRIAN is our trusted online app where you can track your experience, compare it with others who’ve been there and get the knowledge you need to make informed decisions.

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      Click here to visit the BRIAN website

      What are the symptoms of an oligodendroglioma?

      Oligodendrogliomas may cause any of the symptoms common among brain tumours, particularly:

      • altered sensations, like strange smells or hallucinations relating to sense of smell
      • muscular weakness, particularly down one side of the body, and loss of control of bodily movements.

      Often, the symptoms depend on where the brain tumour is located

      In the frontal lobe, oligodendrogliomas can cause gradual changes in mood and personality, and weakness or numbness in the muscles of one side of the body.

      If it is located in the temporal lobe, this may cause problems with speech, coordination and memory.

      Find out more

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      How are oligodendrogliomas treated?

      As grade 2 oligodendrogliomas grow very slowly, you may be put on active monitoring (also known as watch and wait) if no treatment is required immediately.

      If the tumour is large or causing symptoms that affect your quality of life, neurosurgery may be performed to remove as much as possible. This may be followed with radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

      Grade 3 oligodendrogliomas are usually treated with surgery soon after diagnosis, which is then followed by a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

      Chemotherapy is particularly successful when it is administered to patients whose tumours contain a particular gene change called the 1p/19q chromosomal deletion. Detecting this genetic alteration with biomarker testing is now essential when evaluating what treatment is used for people who are diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma..

      Find out more

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      What causes oligodendrogliomas?

      As with most tumours, the exact cause is not known, although we do understand some of the risk factors

      This can be a difficult thing to accept and can leave you feeling helpless, but there is nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening.

      The Brain Tumour Charity is contributing to the funding of research into a possible cause that is focused around our genes.

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      How long can I live with an oligodendroglioma?

      This is impossible to know for sure and will depend on many factors, including the details of your tumour, your general health and how you respond to treatment. While an average prognosis can be determined, the reality will be different for everyone.

      Oligodendroglioma prognosis

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      Get support

      If you need someone to talk to or advice on where to get help, our Support and Information team is available by phone, email or live-chat.

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      If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:

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